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Letter from the Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Committee to the President of Congress



In Committee, Lancaster, January 10, 1776.

GENTLEMEN: The women and children belonging to the privates of the Seventh and Twenty-Sixth Regiments, who are prisoners here, have this day implored us, in a body, that we would interest ourselves in their behalf. They tell us they are denied further provisions, by Mr˙ Franks, agent in this place, and that they must inevitably perish, unless relieved from their present distress by your munificence.

We are also informed, by the gentleman who transacts the business for the contractors here, in the absence of Mr˙ Simon, that he has received express orders not to deliver out any allowance of meat or bread to the soldiers' wives or children, for the future.

Being mindful that humanity ought ever to distinguish the sons of America, and that cruelty should find no admission amongst a free people, we could not avoid considering the situation of their women and children as pitiable, indeed. We were strongly inclined, at the first moment, to assist them in their distress. Our feelings, as men, evidently pointed out to us those people as real objects of compassion.

The Committee have, accordingly, requested of Colonel Matthias Hough to supply them with necessary provisions at the publick expense, until your pleasure can be made known unto us. Mr˙ Hough has engaged to do this at our request. We flatter ourselves your honourable body will approve the step we have taken, and will give directions for the future subsistence of the women and children. From the returns given to us, we find that there are twenty-four women and twenty-five children belonging to the soldiers of the Seventh Regiment, and six women and eight children belonging to the Twenty-Sixth Regiment.

The Committee have been under the necessity of taking up a number of blankets for the prisoners, at the publick expense. There were in the barracks about one hundred and sixty-five old blankets, almost worn out, and to these we have added seventy-two new ones. The whole serve as a scanty covering for the soldiers, against the rigour and inclemency of the season. We have also been obliged to purchase a quantity of coarse, strong linen, to be filled, with straw, for their use. The article of fire-wood, for the consumption of so many men, is very expensive. One hundred weight of soap has been also furnished by us to the prisoners. We beg your directions in what manner these accounts are to be discharged.

The Committee have not yet been favoured with your instructions respecting the officers continuing here until their baggage comes up, and whether they are allowed the privilege of drawing bills for their support. Our particular situation must apologize to you for our importunity, and the trouble we give you. Amongst the more important concerns, it is our highest wish to conduce, in some degree, to the general weal, and that our conduct may be rendered acceptable to the honourable Congress.

We are, gentlemen, with the utmost respect, your most obedient and very humble servants.

By order of the Committee:

J˙ YEATES, Chairman.

To John Hancock, President of the honourable Continental Congress.